English GECs: Catchment area limited for advertisers - Santosh Desai

Santosh Desai, MD & CEO, Futurebrands, shares his views on the current fragmented scenario in the English general entertainment space, as well as the expectations and opportunities that it holds for advertisers...

e4m by Santosh Desai
Updated: May 13, 2011 8:45 AM
English GECs: Catchment area limited for advertisers - Santosh Desai

The English general entertainment channels are seeing renewed vigour since the start of 2011 and are showing all the signs of stepping up their marketing initiatives and channel offerings to the next level.

With the entrance of new players with strong content propositions such as Prime from the BIG CBS stable and more recently, the channel for the urban-contemporary couple, Love, the English GEC genre that until now had two players, now has four. To add to the mix, BIG has an upcoming youth channel soon to be launched and two channels dedicated to reality entertainment are in the pipeline.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Santosh Desai, MD & CEO, Futurebrands, speaks about the current fragmented scenario in the English space, the expectations and opportunities it holds for advertisers…

As viewers, it is good news, but from an advertiser’s perspective, the catchment area is limited. Supply will not increase over the catchment area. The problem is how one increases the number of viewers that will tune in to any of these channels. If you don’t increase the universe of the viewers than fighting for share is a zero sum game. You will be left fragmenting the existing viewers with that many more number of channels. The priority is to widen the base and I don’t think the English entertainment sector has exploited its potential. Of course, the opportunity here is smaller than the Hindi or local language market. Current shares do not reflect the kind of audience that exists.

Most channels at the moment seem to be sourcing their shows of films from the same sources and half their shows seem to be the same so watching the show ‘NCIS’ here or there makes not much of a difference. Eventually, everyone wants to mark their presence as an entrant in the genre but they seem to be lying in wait for tomorrow or whenever that they see this market growing. For now, I don’t see much changing for the broadcaster as it is still tough to make money here. From an advertiser’s viewpoint, it brings the rates down but there is also fragmented viewership because if there is show loyalty rather than channel loyalty, people will go where the shows are. If one channel has the latest season of a particular show that is the channel you will watch it on. Until the base increases, which will make life tougher than it is, for the English GECs.

Most brands are happy to be on a niche channels. There are many categories that can avail of being visible to a sharper, targeted audience and a segment that is sure to buy. Therefore, the proposition is attractive but the need for varied offers on this is not pronounced. The moment TRPs fall, in theoretical terms, you should see prices drop more than proportionately due to the desperation of bringing advertisers on board, which is good news for advertisers. If this happens, it is not sustainable for broadcasters in the long run. In the short term, the advertisers can leverage one against the others but I’m not sure if in the long run the system will work. Till as long as we are not a subscription driven model and rely on advertising revenue that works on a ratings driven market and there are no allowances made for the quality of your audiences, you will always find that these channels will struggle. The fact that you are offering an audience that is a high consumption type with a high probability to spend, which people ignore. There is yet no way of accounting for this and until the time that we use that as a yardstick, one TRP point here will be the same as a TRP point on any other channel.

I was, therefore, careful in saying that this is how is may work out “in theory”. In practice, people may have different compulsions and everybody wants to raises rates and that’s bravado. Eventually, it is a free market and why should I go to the one that is higher. If the channel is offering a significantly better bank of movies, the price point may be agreeable but somebody else’s price will suffer as it is a zero sum game. As an advertiser, I don’t care if it is channel A, B or C but this is what is expected to happen.

The English entertainment sector is growing in viewership as to some extent supply will increase demand and make it interesting; more people will tune in. In most cases, it is not as though the audience is not present; channels are not able to get people to sample a show. If you sample a show, you follow a show. It is a big thing to get the sampling of a show right as if you are able to get people to watch the first two episodes of a show, they may turn into regular viewers. The opportunity exists and if there is marketing noise happening, it will expand the market a little bit but they have to do much more intensive rather than extensive marketing.

The idea by itself is not a powerful thought; it is the content. There are dedicated channels for youth already; so what is new? Segmentation is not about cutting things in new ways; it is about meaningfully delivering something new to those audiences and a reason to be that. If you have a reason to be present, it makes sense. Can a channel for women or a food channel work? Sure. For such a proposition to work, the content must be present and its ability to deliver the promise should be strong.

Till such times that India becomes a multiple TV household setting, channels that are segmented on constituencies have a fundamental problem as there is a dominant single TV ownership scenario.

(As told to exchange4media’s Fatema Rajkotwala.)

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